Prolactinoma (Pituitary Tumor)

  • Medical Author:

    Robert Ferry Jr., MD, is a U.S. board-certified Pediatric Endocrinologist. After taking his baccalaureate degree from Yale College, receiving his doctoral degree and residency training in pediatrics at University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA), he completed fellowship training in pediatric endocrinology at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

  • Medical Editor: Ruchi Mathur, MD, FRCP(C)
    Ruchi Mathur, MD, FRCP(C)

    Ruchi Mathur, MD, FRCP(C)

    Ruchi Mathur, MD, FRCP(C) is an Attending Physician with the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism and Associate Director of Clinical Research, Recruitment and Phenotyping with the Center for Androgen Related Disorders, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

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Prolactinoma facts

  • A prolactinoma is a benign tumor of the pituitary gland.
  • Prolactinomas cause secretion of the hormone prolactin, which stimulates the breast to produce milk.
  • The aims of treatment are the reduction of prolactin level to normal, reduction of tumor size, and restoration of normal pituitary function.
  • Most prolactinomas occur sporadically with a low risk of recurrence in the family.
  • However, some prolactinomas are due to a genetic predisposition and carry a high risk of recurrence.
  • The overall success rate in treating prolactinomas is very high.

What is a prolactinoma (pituitary tumor)?

A prolactinoma is a benign tumor (called an adenoma) of the pituitary gland. A prolactinoma produces an excessive amount of the hormone prolactin. Prolactin is a natural hormone which supports a woman's normal lactation, which is the secretion of milk by the mammary glands of the breast. Prolactinomas are the most common type of pituitary tumor. Symptoms of prolactinoma are caused by pressure of the tumor on surrounding tissues or by excessive release of prolactin from the tumor into the blood (causing a condition known as hyperprolactinemia).

What is the normal function of prolactin?

Prolactin stimulates the breast tissues to enlarge during pregnancy. After delivery of the baby, the mother's prolactin level falls unless she breastfeeds her infant. Each time the baby nurses from the breasts, prolactin levels rise to maintain milk production.

What is the pituitary gland?

Sometimes called the master gland, the pituitary gland plays a critical role in regulating growth and development, metabolism, and reproduction. This gland produces prolactin and a number of other key hormones including:

  • Growth hormone, which as the name indicates, regulates growth;
  • ACTH (adrenocorticotropin hormone) which stimulates the adrenal glands to produce cortisol, especially during stressful events (surgery, etc.)
  • Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), which signals the thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormone; and
  • Luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), which regulate ovulation and estrogen and progesterone production in women, and sperm formation and testosterone production in men.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/23/2015
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